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We are always hearing about changing demographics. After every census we read about congressional redistricting, gerrymandering, etc.

In the history of the Church in Indiana this whole idea of changing demographics also holds true. Vincennes was mostly made up of French settlers. Our first four bishops were all born in France. Then the Germans and the irish came.

When the Diocese of Vincennes was founded in 1834, it made up the entire State of Indiana as well as the entire eastern half of Illinois, including the small village of Chicago. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the history of the Church in Chicago this way:

In 1833 a petition was addressed to the Right Rev. Joseph Rosati, Bishop of St. Louis and Vicar-General of Bardstown in which latter diocese the state of Illinois then lay, praying for the appointment of a resident pastor. The petition declared that there were about one hundred Catholics in Chicago and was signed by thirty-eight men representing one hundred and twenty-two souls. In answer to this request Bishop Rosati appointed Father John Mary Irenæus St. Cyr to take charge at Chicago, and he celebrated the first Mass in Mark Beaubien’s log cabin on Lake Street, near Market, 1833. Shortly thereafter Fr. St. Cyr secured a lot near the corner of Lake and State Streets and put up a church building twenty-five by thirty-five feet, at the cost of four hundred dollars. This modest structure was dedicated in October, 1833. A little later when Bishop Brute, the first Bishop of Vincennes, visited Chicago, he found there a congregation of four hundred souls. The growing necessities of the missions in northern Illinois soon demanded the services of more than one priest. So, at the solicitation of Bishop Rosati, Bishop Brute sent Fathers Fischer, Shaefer. St. Palais and Dupontavice. The last named was appointed to Joliet. Father St. Cyr was recalled in 1837. He was succeeded as pastor of the English-speaking congregation by Father O’Meara, who removed the church building erected by Father St. Cyr to Wabash Avenue and Madison Street. After the departure of Father O’Meara, Father St. Palais built on this site a new brick structure. To the priests already mentioned the names of Fathers Plunkett and Gueguen should be added as having rendered good services in the first period of the Church’s history in Chicago.

It was on this day, November 28, 1843 that the Diocese of Chicago was founded. Time marches on!


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